We'll say one thing for some of these robocall scammers, they sure can think out of the box. This time, they are trying to get your personal information by dangling an item that has become very popular in recent years.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is issuing an alert on a new type of scam. This one involves Medicare and DNA testing kits.
Find out how this new scam works and what to look out for. We'll also offer tips to avoid falling for all types of schemes run by robocallers.
A DNA testing kit for your data
Impersonating federal government employees is all the rage for illegal robocallers. They pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Medicare, FBI and more.
Now, the FTC has issued a warning on a new twist to a Medicare robocall scam. DNA testing kits are being offered. But don't fall for it. Instead of learning your ancestry you could end up having your identity stolen.
In exchange for Medicare numbers, Social Security numbers and other personal information, scammers are offering to send victims a DNA testing kit. With such kits growing in popularity, it's quite the carrot to dangle in front of the unsuspecting.
Some robocallers sweeten the deal even more. They tell their marks that the DNA test can offer early diagnoses for diseases such as cancer.
But, here's something to remember: Medicare does not market DNA testing kits to the general public, so the sounds-too-good-to-be-true adage applies yet again.
The FTC offers these tips on avoiding Medicare scams, which can apply to any robocall claiming to be from a government agency:
- Government agencies will rarely call you: If they do, it will be after they send you a letter -- or to return a call you made to them. But anytime the "government" caller demands information (or payment by wire transfer or gift card), that’s a scam.
- Don’t trust caller ID: Robocallers can use technology to hide their real phone numbers and show one that seems legit. So if the caller ID shows a 202 area code, or says "government" or "Washington, D.C.," don’t take that at face value. It could be anyone calling from anywhere.
- Don't give personal information to strangers: Never give anyone who calls information such as your Medicare, bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers. Scammers can steal your identity, open credit accounts in your name and take your money.
Government imposter scams growing
Earlier this month, the FTC issued a report that the number of government imposter calls is on the rise. And these scams are raking in millions.
The report showed that losses to government imposter scams have added up to more than $450 million since 2014. While only 6% of people who report government imposters say they have lost money, the median individual reported loss is $960.
People ages 20 to 59 report losing money to these scams at higher rates than people 60 and over, but the reported losses increase with age. People 80 and over report a median loss of $2,700.
In the span of three hours, one Komando.com staffer got eight robocalls telling her that she was in big trouble -- her Social Security account had been locked. Obviously, the call was bunk.
To help consumers understand the full scope of the government imposter scams, the FTC unveiled an interactive infographic that allows you to see how many complaints have been made each year since 2014.
Americans aren't just being preyed upon by government imposter plans, they are also dealing with an epidemic of millions of robocall scams a month. Komando.com offers this comprehensive guide on what phone scams to look out for and how you can stop them in their tracks.
Mobile phone carriers also are starting to take steps to help consumers block robocalls. Komando.com offers this rundown of what the nation's four major mobile carriers are doing to block the flood of robocalls.
Since scammers are creative and always ahead of the game, precautions taken by mobile carriers most likely won't work in the long term. That's why we must rely on ourselves and take matters into our own hands to stay protected.
Federal government's computer systems are out of date and waiting to be breached
Talk about mind-boggling. This week the United States launched a cyberattack on Iran. Now there's a report that the computer systems used at the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies are frighteningly out of date and open to data breaches.